Play (1)

Meet Sasha. She’s a warlock, bound to a genie that happens to be her uncle. He doesn’t grant her any wishes, instead telling her to travel far and wide while learning new magic along the way. Having a way with words, Sasha effortlessly charms her way into people’s hearts no matter where she goes. Elusive whenever she chooses to be, Sasha can be often seen slinging spells at foes 10 miles from a fight (300 feet actually, but you get the idea), armed with jokes to cheer folks up, and insults for those unfortunate enough to cross her party. She also happens to be my character in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and I absolutely love role-playing her.

But that being said, it raises an interesting line of thought.

Why do I find more enjoyment playing Sasha as opposed to my old engineering job, the latter of which contributed far more ‘utility’ toward humankind? Why we do not mind the stress of being a volunteer chef for the local chaplaincy but we loathe our job as a chef in a renowned restaurant? Why do we suddenly develop an interest for subjects (biology and mandarin for me) that we used to hate in high school now? This raises three questions that I’ve been thinking about the last few days:

1. Why do we love doing things voluntarily, and hate doing things under compulsion?
2. What is it about play that makes it engaging?
3. Why do we insist on separating work and play?

Why do we love doing things voluntarily, and hate doing things under compulsion?

“Our body exists in our spirit.”

-Jeffrey Allens

Deep in our heart of hearts, we know that what we essentially are is a dimensionless awareness with space-like qualities (basically the description of a spirit in many cultures around the world), and freedom is what we know our nature to be. It exists on an intuitive level, but sometimes we forget it in the middle of the game of life that we play.

And when we do, any kind of constraint, or life situations can be misinterpreted as limitations being imposed upon our freedom. We hate it because it is a denial of our own nature, a denial of ourselves. In contrast, we adore those who are affluent and abundant because they have the freedom to do the things that we want to do. We look up to those who speak their mind and truth because they have the courage to open their heart. We love freedom because it is what we are, and when that is imposed upon we know we have been hurt deep inside. We rebel against dictatorships and protest in the streets because we know our freedom has been robbed even though we physically fine. It is the reason why overtly controlling regimes around the world (Hong Kong, Myanmar, etc.) are now facing an outburst of protests in the recent decade, a call for freedom by their people to have their rights met. That is also why more people are feeling down as a result of the pandemic, as people’s freedoms are cut short out of a necessity to preserve lives.

It is also the reason why people hate their jobs; because they would much rather be doing something else but must stay at their jobs because they have no choice. Deep down, if given the opportunity and circumstance, we know that 99% of our jobs are so menial and abhorrent we would pay people to do it for us in a heartbeat. When there is so much of the universe to look forward to, who wouldn’t want to have fun with existence and bore themselves to death with a job?

Freedom is inherent in our nature, and its denial, whether imposed, or through forgetting, results in suffering.

What is it about play that makes it engaging?

I point my hand at the goblin. A brief pulse of energy floods though my body as my vision sharpens. A translucent mage hand materialises in front of the goblin, confusing it. I close my hand, and its spectral counterpart yanks the crossbow out of its arms. Utterly shocked and caught off guard, a cheeky grin spreads across my face as I proceeded to bonk the poor creature with its own weapon.


There is a certain tension that all games and activities have, from preparing peer reviews to extreme sports. The ability to successfully navigate that tension and enjoy the process at the same time is what produces the greatest pleasure at any given skill level. The secret sauce to being a master of these matters, and in doing so, become master of pleasure itself?

Love and discipline.

With great power comes great responsibility, but with great skill comes great pleasure. Whether it is learning to play a musical instrument, improvising stories on the fly, making sweet love, mastering the art of cooking, or scaling a near vertical boulder, a certain amount of skill is required for it to be enjoyable.

This is where love comes in. Whether it is the passion for wanting to get into it in the first place, or the rush of joy that comes from participating in it, love is both the starter and the catalyst for one’s involvement in said activity. Discipline is the other half of the equation. Through focused effort and practice, one gains mastery in said activity, which then allows the person further to express their love, joy, and creativity. The two aspects of love and discipline mutually interact with each other in a virtuous cycle, creating nothing but sheer pleasure and good vibes in the process.

A common misunderstanding at this stage is to misconstrue discipline for hard, dull labor, but the difference is worlds apart. The former is born from joy and enthusiasm where the other is a spiteful grind in the hopes that all that suffering wasn’t for nothing. The hard work done may be the same, but the intention and state of mind make all the difference, evidenced by the person who goes home with a zest for more because he/she loves the job as opposed to the majority of the working populace. One is happy, the others hate life.

Play is beautiful, work is boring. Life is short and ephemeral, so why not get in the spirit of engaging in all things as a form of play?

Why do we insist on separating work and play?

“How do you convince people to give their lives for a cause? Get them to believe in the promise of a better future.”


Simply put, because we believe in a narrative comprised of three premises:
1. Happiness is not part of our nature, therefore we must strive to obtain it.
2. Happiness is only found in the fulfillment of desires, therefore constant happiness entails constant fulfillment of desires.
3. Happiness as a constant can only be achieved through greater productivity so that desires can be constantly fulfilled.

The result is a working culture that places productivity over love, where results matter more than the participants, resulting in a culture that often misquotes the delayed-gratification experiment as an excuse to perpetuate itself. The delaying of gratification is appropriate for cases where discipline and skill are involved, but if the result of such a workplace culture is nothing but stress and a repeated dependence on the next paycheck to act as a supplicant for an imaginary future, that inherently defeats the purpose of pursuing, loving and enjoying a discipline associated with that line of work in the first place. In short, it tells people to give up happiness now for more in the future, even though said future does not exist outside of the imagination, only to have it repeat for a good half of their lives.

If nothing else, why are depression and suicide rates sky-rocketing in an era of supposedly greater prosperity, technological prowess, and convenience than ever before?

When one realizes that there is nothing outside the eternal Here and Now, the entire narrative behind modern productivity crumbles. The results is one of two outcomes; they either embrace their jobs as one would a game, bringing new levels of love and discipline to the endeavor, or they leave the situation behind for a new one that suits their calling.

The truth about jobs of this era is that the people who engage in them willingly participate in an abhorrent, boring grind as a means to an end, that being the promise of a better future. What if jobs were treated like play instead, like a skill that could bring pleasure to those who willingly devote their love and discipline to it?

Thoughts aside for now, I hope that you enjoy the read as I did contemplating the subject. I would appreciate it if you’d drop a like and leave a comment below, as I enjoy interacting with you! Aside from that, look forward to part 2 and have a nice day!

P.S: Let me know if I should do a short series on Sasha’s adventures!

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